RAWALPINDI: Heavy rain and snowfall accompanied by gusty winds are expected in upper parts of the country, including Rawalpindi, Islamabad and Murree, from Saturday to Monday.
The Met Office said a westerly weather system was present over the western parts of the country and likely to grip most upper and central areas on Saturday and Sunday.
Rain/snow wind-thunderstorm (with few heavy falls/hailstorm) is expected in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, northern Balochistan, Gilgit-Baltistan and Kashmir. Fog is likely to prevail in upper Sindh and a few plain areas of Punjab.
It asked the authorities concerned to remain alert and take precautionary measures during the period.
For tourists, the department said rain with snowfall was expected in Murree, Nathiagali, Naran, Kaghan, Neelum valley, Rawalakot, Muzaffarabad, Hunza valley, Mansehra, Abbottabad, Chitral, Dir, Kalam and Malamjabba from Saturday to Monday (morning).
Heavy snowfall may cause road closures in tourist places. Heavy falls may cause urban flooding in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala, Lahore, Faisalabad, Sargodha and Sialkot during the weekend, the Met Office said.
Advisory issued for Murree
In view of the Met Office forecast, the City Traffic Police have issued an advisory and made special arrangements for tourists visiting Murree.
On the directives of the district administration, not more than 8,000 cars will be permitted to enter the hill station. However, visitors will not be allowed to enter between 5pm to 5am.
Fitness of vehicles and driving licences will be checked at police pickets established at all the entrances and only mechanically-fit vehicles and licence holding drivers will be allowed to proceed to Murree, a traffic police spokesman said.
He said additional personnel of traffic police had been deployed to maintain smooth flow of traffic and deal with any kind of emergency during snowfall.
He said special pickets had been set up at all toll plazas and entrances of Murree where tourists will be given pamphlets about routes in the area and precautions to be taken.
Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Rawalpindi Wasim Riaz said besides electronic and print media, police radio 88.6 and official pages of the traffic police would be providing information about weather condition to the visitors during snowfall in Murree.
Therefore, tourists visiting Murree are requested to keep in mind the severity of weather and rush conditions. They should take warm clothes and extra food with them.
He also said Murree had a parking capacity of about 3,500 vehicles, advising tourists not to park their vehicles and take selfies.
“Please note that all roads in Murree are two way so do not make a double line at all,” Mr Riaz said, adding that choose a mechanically-fit vehicle with an emergency toolkit while visiting Murree during snowfall.
“Keep your vehicle’s fuel tank full,” he added.
The CTO said traffic and district police personnel stationed on highways were on duty for the convenience of tourists in severe weather conditions, therefore, visitors should cooperate with them.
Wasa imposes rain emergency
The Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) on Friday imposed a rain emergency and asked its staff to remain on alert.
Wasa Managing Director Raja Shaukat Mehmood said a contingency plan had been finalised to avoid any flood-like situation in the garrison city. He said all water sucking machines had been deployed in the low-lying areas to drain out water in case of heavy rain.
Furthermore, Deputy Commissioner Tahir Farooq directed all the departments to prepare their plans in view of the Met Office prediction.
Commissioner inspects roads in Murree
Commissioner Rawalpindi Division Noorul Amin Mengal on Friday visited Murree amid the rain and snowfall forecast.
He stopped at the traffic police picket at the entrance to the hill station on Murree Expressway and spoke to the police personnel. He inquired about the number of vehicles entering Murree and the traffic advisory given to passengers. The police personnel were directed to remain alert and in constant touch with the control room.
Later, the commissioner visited Jheeka Gali, Kuldana and Bariyan and inspected roads and reviewed the traffic situation. He directed that the emergency plan should be implemented in letter and spirit.
“All snow-removing machinery should be kept operational and staff attendance should also be ensured,” he said.
He said landsliding was also expected during heavy snowfall so a plan to tackle the situation should come into force. In view of the expected forecast, a control room has been set up in the office of the deputy commissioner which will remain operational till January 25.
The control room can be contacted on 051-9269016/9292963. Staff of Punjab police, traffic police, Rescue 1122, forest department, Iesco, Civil Defence and other departments will be present in the control room which will work round the clock under the supervision of the assistant commissioner (headquarters).
Published in Dawn, January 22nd, 2022